Telecom companies owe government Rs452 crore as spectrum fee

New Delhi: Leading telecom company Bharti Airtel owes the Indian government Rs152.77 crore, the highest outstanding among all operators, towards spectrum charges and licence fees, the Parliament was informed on Tuesday, reports PTI.

The total outstanding amount, including interest, against GSM operators as on 31 March 2010, is Rs451.75 crore, out of which Bharti Airtel has the highest dues, Minister of State for Telecom and IT Sachin Pilot said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha.

Bharti Airtel has an outstanding of Rs135.11 crore towards spectrum charges and Rs17.66 crore towards licence fees.

To a query on whether the government proposes to penalise defaulting GSM operators who have not paid their dues, Mr Pilot said, "Penalty is imposed as per the licence agreement."

Followed by Bharti Airtel, Vodafone has the second highest outstanding of Rs71.77 crore (towards spectrum charges only) among the private GSM players. There is no outstanding against Vodafone in terms of licence fees.

Anil Ambani group firms Reliance Communication and Reliance Telecom have a combined outstanding of Rs53.07 crore, mainly towards licence fees, as on 31 March 2010.

Among the state-owned telecom firms, BSNL has dues of Rs84.44 crore towards licence fees, while MTNL has an outstanding of Rs17.22 crore.
BPL Cellular and BPL Mobile Communication Ltd have outstanding dues of Rs39.83 crore, Mr Pilot said in the Lok Sabha.

Birlas-owned Idea Cellular has an outstanding of Rs7.07 crore towards non-payment of spectrum charges.

Among other GSM players, Aircel, Etisalat DB and Unitech have marginal outstandings of less than Rs1 crore, either on account of non-payment of spectrum charges or licence fees, as of 31st March this year.


Central team says land acquisition by state government for Posco 'illegal'

Paradip/Bhubaneswar: The Orissa government on Tuesday began land acquisition for the proposed Rs 51,000 crore Posco steel project in Jagathsinghpur district, even as a central team termed the process as "illegal" saying that the Forest Rights Act had been violated, reports PTI.

"We have begun acquiring government land in Gada Kujang Panchayat area after proper verification," Additional District Magistrate (Paradip), Saroj K Choudhury said.

Stating that the work was progressing smoothly, he said two persons, Rohit Behera and Basant Behera of Bhuyanpal village, were among first to receive cheques for Rs1.15 lakh each for their land of over ten decimal area used for cultivation of betel vine.

The process started despite reservations expressed by the central committee of union ministries of Forest and Environment and Tribal Affairs which dubbed land acquisition without implementing the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 as illegal.

"It will be illegal to acquire land until the Forest Rights Act is implemented properly," Asish Kothari, one of the four members of the joint committee said.
"After realising that the state government violated norms under the Act, we will recommend to Union Ministry of Forest and Environment to withdraw or stay the forest clearance given to the Posco project," Mr Kothari, told reporters.

Under Section 7 of the Act the officials involved in land acquisition at this stage are liable to be punished," Mr Kothari said, adding "We will favour withdrawal of forest clearance to Posco-India as in case of Vedanta's Lanjigarh project."
The central committee would submit its report to the ministry within three days, he said. The team had visited three gram panchayats, Dhinkia, Gada Kujang and Nuagaon on July 24.

Though there was no tribal inhabitant in the proposed plant site, Mr Kothari said most villagers could be treated as "traditional forest dwellers" as they depended on forest land for a living.

"The people in the three gram panchayats were earning their livelihood since 1913 from betel cultivation and other activities on forest land," he said, adding the villagers exhibited land records claiming their rights over forest land.

Mr Kothari rubbished allegation that the committee was taking up the cause of the anti-Posco group. "We are here to verify implementation of the Forest Right Act. The committee members have met both the groups," he said.

Posco-India which required 4,004 acre, including 2,900 acre of forest land, had obtained in-principle forest clearance in January 2010.


Kerala plans law to check private money lending companies

Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala Government plans to bring in a comprehensive legislation to protect the interest of depositors and check the functioning of private money lending companies, the state finance minister, TM Thomas Issac, informed the Assembly on Tuesday, reports PTI.

A consensus among political parties on the steps to be initiated against private money lending companies has to be evolved before such legislation, Mr Issac said while replying to a calling attention of VK Ebrahim Kunju of IUML.

Some private non-banking companies were providing micro-finances to self-help groups which might, in long run, seriously affect the functioning of 'Kudumbasree' government supported women empowerment movement, Mr Issac said.


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